Sukkot is the strangest holiday we have, and it has the strangest rituals. It’s one thing to sit around the table and eat and sing (like we do on every holiday). It’s quite another thing to build a shack in the back yard and wave around a bunch of plants in all directions. What’s that all about?!
Of course, what that’s all about is agriculture. A long time ago, our farmer ancestors used to reap their fields during this time of year. The festival of Sukkot was born out of the practice of measuring the yield and giving thanks to God.
Well, I’m not a farmer. (I can’t even keep houseplants alive!) But I do have something that I measure every year on Sukkot, and it has transformed this holiday into the most special time of year for our family.
Four years ago, my wife and I decided to designate one pole of our sukkah as a “measuring stick.” Each year, when we build our sukkah, we make sure that pole ends up in the doorway, and we mark each child’s height on it in permanent marker. That way, every Sukkot they get to see how much they’ve grown in the past year, and we get to celebrate the fact that they got a little taller and a little older.
I know there’s nothing novel about measuring your kids every year. Plenty of parents do it on birthdays, or on New Year’s Day. But for me, the connection with Sukkot is really important. Judaism tells me that on this holiday, I’m supposed to measure and be thankful for the yield of the past year. I think that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Plus, it makes us really look forward to putting up our sukkah!